Explained: All the controversy around Hogwarts Legacy, and why gamers are boycotting

‘You deserve every bit of criticism you get if you still support Rowling at this point’

Unless you live firmly under a rock, you will not have been able to escape the discourse surrounding tomorrow’s wide release of Hogwarts Legacy – a new open world video game set in the same Wizarding World made famous by Harry Potter. As someone who grew up on Harry Potter books, films and janky licensed video games featuring the infamous PS1 Hagrid, Hogwarts Legacy has been created for fans as the kind of game we would always have wanted – a huge, sprawling and detailed RPG for fans to create their own witch and wizard and have their own experience at Hogwarts. However, as JK Rowling’s views on trans rights become more and more at odds with my own and those who support self ID and equality for transgender people, the franchise has become clouded with its creator’s vitriol. Here’s the controversy Hogwarts Legacy is now wrapped up in fully explained.

People don’t want JK Rowling to profit

The main issue surrounding Hogwarts Legacy is that buying the game will line the pockets of JK Rowling – even though she has no direct involvement with its creation or development. Because Rowling owns the intellectual property rights to the franchise, she will profit from the game’s sales. This has created a lot of controversy and discourse online about the ethical debate on whether to buy and play Hogwarts Legacy if you consider yourself a trans ally – it’s moments like this where you can make a small decision to put your conviction where your allyship is.

The villains of the game are goblins, which has received criticism in the films and books, too

— David J Bradley but marked with a Recusant's Sigil (@DavidJBradley1) February 9, 2023

The game is set during the Goblin Rebellion era of Hogwarts and the Wizarding World, and your character in Hogwarts Legacy follows a storyline of suppressing it. Goblins in the world of Harry Potter have had controversy before when people have accused their characterisation is perpetuating antisemitic tropes.

The lead designer expressed support for cultural appropriation and had to leave the project

Troy Leavitt, who was at one point the head designer for Hogwarts Legacy, left the game’s development around February 2021 after he received backlash for posting on social media supporting cultural appropriation and Gamergate. Gamergate was a harassment campaign of right-wing backlash against feminism and diversity in video games. Leavitt stated his decision to leave Avalanche Software (developers of Hogwarts Legacy) and the game as a project were nothing to do with this controversy and backlash, but it’s a titanic yikes all the same.

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